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Allen may jump for joy this time

The Seven Rivers Christian senior is reaching new heights in the high jump, and expects to eliminate the memories of last year's disappointing state finish.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 24, 2002


LECANTO -- After finishing second in last year's Class A state meet in the high jump, Shawn Allen had a look his father won't soon forget.

"I could see the pain," Denny Allen said. "I thought he'd be really determined to go back and win (the title) because he's such a competitor."

Father knows best.

In this, his senior season at Seven Rivers Christian, Shawn Allen is having a spring to remember.

In the Warriors' opening meet, he jumped 6 feet, 6 inches for the first time. Then he topped that with a 6-8 performance the following week.

Then came this stunner: On March 15 at Crystal River, Allen cleared 6-11 -- believed to be the county record.

"I was thrilled," Allen said.

Not to mention a bit shocked.

"I didn't think I'd get it this year," Allen said. "I thought maybe next year if I jumped in college I could do it. I thought I would improve with the help of the college coaches. But I didn't expect it now."

Before jumping 6-11, Allen cleared 6-6 and 6-8 on his first attempts. He needed two tries to make 6-9, 6-10 and 6-11, respectively. He was unsuccessful on three attempts at 7 feet.

"I thought I had (7 feet) on my first attempt," Allen said. "After (getting 6-11), I was worn out.

"I kept thinking, "I'm at 6-11. If I can get to 7-0, I'm there, I've arrived.' "

Now a state contender, Allen only began jumping midway through the 2000 season when then-coach Phil Gelston turned to him at a meet in New Port Richey and said, "Hey, go high jump, you're slender."

On Allen's first attempt that afternoon, he cleared 5-2 with relative ease. After a few misses, he cleared 5-8 to finish sixth.

Two months later, Allen jumped 6-4 in the Class A state meet to place second.

In the begining, the 6-2 Allen gained most of his knowledge from books. A coaches manual taught him the finer points of the Fosbury Flop, the technique most jumpers use.

He learned how to measure his steps using the Pythagorean theorem. Additional aid came from physics teachers at Seven Rivers Christian, who helped Allen locate his center of gravity during jumps.

Denny Allen was a high jumper in high school (he placed at state for Crystal River in 1971 with a leap of 6-0), but that was before the Fosbury Flop was used.

"We did the Western Roll," Allen said. "I haven't coached (Shawn) at all. It absolutely shocks me what he's doing. I'm in awe."

After jumping 6-4 at state last May, Shawn Allen was determined to improve during the offseason.

He attended a weeklong camp at Florida State, where Seminoles coach Dennis Nobles gave Allen his first real tutelage, then got more coaching from Nobles during winter break at another camp.

"I'm tremendously grateful for what (Nobles) did," Allen said.

Allen hopes his efforts will lead to a title and a college scholarship.

Only one jumper in Florida's four classifications -- Class 2A champion Terrance McClain of Hamilton County -- cleared 6-11 at state last season.

"This year, I've had a one-track mind," Allen said.

I see what I can do. To not focus on it would be to throw it away.

"I have to take care of this gift I've been given. If I don't win state, I would probably consider this a failure."

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